WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton on Friday unveiled a
$100 million plan to bolster AIDS research around the globe,
citing grim statistics about the epidemic's devastating toll in
Africa and its alarming spread through the former Soviet
Like other world leaders, Clinton commemorated World AIDS Day
with a call to arms, promising to do more before leaving office
in January to combat a disease that has killed more than 20
million people in the last two decades, including 3 million
people last year alone.
At a Washington AIDS clinic, Clinton listened intently to AIDS
patients describe their fears and hopes for a cure. "Hang in
there," Clinton told one man after touring the center and
watching patients' exams.
Later, Clinton addressed religious leaders and AIDS activists
at Washington's Howard University. He announced the release of
the National Institutes of Health's first "strategic plan" for
international AIDS research, boosting funding and training in
more than 50 countries and helping poor nations deploy the
latest drugs and prevention methods.
Clinton's plan calls for $100 million to be spent in the
current fiscal year to support these overseas activities.
The epidemic's spread has slowed in the United States, and AIDS
mortality rates have dropped more than 70 percent since 1995 as
new drugs hit the market, the White House said.
Still, 40,000 Americans become infected each year with HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS -- more than 110 a day -- and the number
of new AIDS cases among women, minorities and adolescents is on
Worldwide, Clinton said, the disease is spreading with alarming
speed, particularly in Africa and in the former Soviet
republics. With 10,000 people infected each day, 3 million
dying a year, and 36 million living with the disease around the
world, Clinton said: "We must be humbled by how very far we all
have to go."
Clinton Touts His Record On Aids
Though criticized by some for not doing enough, Clinton, who
leaves office on Jan. 20, used AIDS Day to tout his
administration's record. Since 1993, it has more than doubled
spending on AIDS research, prevention and treatment.
The United States is also the biggest bilateral donor of
HIV/AIDS aid, investing $1 billion in 75 developing countries
in the last decade on prevention, education and treatment
During his visit to the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington,
AIDS patient Michelle McKinzie thanked Clinton for his efforts,
telling the president she was praying for a "miracle" that
would cure her and millions of others.
"Good for you," Clinton said in response.
At Howard University, a tearful Belynda Dunn, who heads the
National Association of People with AIDS, lamented the end of
Clinton's term in office, saying she was "so afraid" about the
future. "We're going to really miss you. You have been a life
saver. We love you," she told the president.
"I'm not going anywhere," Clinton told Dunn. "I'll still be
there for you." The Rev. Winston Njongonkulu Ndugane of South
Africa urged Clinton and other world leaders to do more,
particularly in helping bring affordable AIDS drugs to Africa,
where 25.3 million people live with HIV or AIDS out of 36.1
million cases worldwide, according to a U.N. report. More than
15 million Africans have died of AIDS-related diseases out of
20 million global deaths to date.
"We know we have to do more to help developing nations," said
Clinton, who sees AIDS as a threat to global security, adding
that he was particularly concerned about its spread in former
Clinton said the United States should use "every available
tool" in the fight. "We've got a long way to go," he said, but
added: "We're only going to go forward, not backward."